Pastor, read good books
One of the primary ways a pastor (or anyone else, for that matter) can care for his soul is to read good books. Books can take us to a new world, and they can help us understand our own world better. They can reveal the beauty of Scripture to us, and they can remind us of the depth of sin and depravity that exist in our world.
One of my mentors has often said to me, “Leaders are readers. If you’re not leading, you’re not reading.” As a replant pastor, you are a leader. That is not negotiable. Reading will help you to become a better and more effective leader. But I also would counsel you to read on a variety of subjects. Don’t be afraid to step outside the evangelical bubble when it comes to reading.
Here are four tips to help you in your reading journey this year:
1. Read dead guys. I’m making it a point to read more and more books by those who lived the Christian life well in previous centuries. So far this year, I’ve read books by Charles Sheldon, Charles Spurgeon, Brennan Manning, and G.K. Chesterton. C.S. Lewis is a staple of my book list each year. I hope to read some Puritans before the end of the year. As we read books from those who have come before us, we are reminded that Christianity is an ancient faith. It’s a faith that has impacted lives for nearly 2,000 years. It’s good that we should read the works of those who have lived lives of faith well before us. If you’re just getting started reading dead guys, I highly recommend Mere Christianityby C.S. Lewis or All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon as good starting points.
2. Read biographies and autobiographies. Whether it’s Steve Jobs or Johnny Cash or Ted Williams, biographies provide keen insight into significant figures in our world. They can be a fascinating look at the Imago Dei — the image of God — that He has placed within each of us. Even among those who would never have claimed to be followers of Christ, we can still see the image of God at work among humanity. Biographies help us understand people, and understanding people will help you shepherd the flock of God among you (1 Pet. 5:2). Autobiographies often give us an intimate glimpse into the world from someone else’s perspective. If you’re looking for a good biography or autobiography, I recommend Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson or The Man in Blackby Johnny Cash.
3. Read fiction. For me personally, fiction provides a break. I’m often immersed in reading commentaries for sermon prep, ministry books for, well, ministry, and other non-fiction works on a daily basis as part of my work as pastor. So fiction provides an outlet. Good fiction also can help in your own storytelling. I’ve been amazed at how often something I read in a fiction book will provide an apt illustration to a sermon I’m preparing for the following Sunday. In good fiction, you will often see spiritual themes — light and darkness, sin and struggle, injustice, perseverance, etc. Whether it’s John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Stephen King, or J.R.R. Tolkien, fiction will expand your imagination and give you a break from simply reading for sermon prep or ministry ministry development. If you’re looking for a good fiction read, I recommend The Rainmaker by John Grisham or The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Read your Bible. Now, you may think, “Well that goes without saying.” However, I often look back and realize that I’ve read far more outside of the Bible than I read inside the Bible. There’s certainly nothing wrong with reading other stuff, but the Bible alone is God’s Word to us. A daily reading plan is a good start. Personally, I highly recommend the CSB Day by Day Chronological Bible. Spurgeon encouraged us, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” That’s good advice, and it’s a word I need to remember often.